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Thousands rail against Mexico's president and ruling party in 'march for democracy'

People take parte in a march organized by citizen organizations demanding that electoral autonomy be respected in the upcoming general elections in downtown Mexico City, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.
Marco Ugarte
/
AP
People take parte in a march organized by citizen organizations demanding that electoral autonomy be respected in the upcoming general elections in downtown Mexico City, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024.

MEXICO CITY — Tens of thousands of demonstrators cloaked in pink marched through cities in Mexico and abroad on Sunday in what they called a "march for democracy" targeting the country's ruling party in advance of the country's June 2 elections.

The demonstrations called by Mexico's opposition parties advocated for free and fair elections in the Latin American nation and railed against corruption the same day presidential front-runner Claudia Sheinbaum registered as a candidate for ruling party Morena. Approximately 90,000 people turned out to rail against the leader, according to government figures.

Sheinbaum is largely seen as a continuation candidate of Mexico's popular populist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He's adored by many voters who say he bucked the country's elite parties from power in 2018 and represents the working class.

But the 70-year-old president has also been accused of making moves that endanger the country's democracy. Last year, the leader slashed funding for the country's electoral agency, the National Electoral Institute, and weakened oversight of campaign spending, something INE's head said could "wind up poisoning democracy itself." The agency's color, pink, has been used as a symbol by demonstrators.

López Obrador has also attacked journalists in hours-long press briefings, has frequently attacked Mexico's judiciary and claimed judges are part of a conservative conspiracy against his administration.

In Mexico City on Sunday, thousands of people dressed in pink flocked to the the city's main plaza roaring "get López out." Others carried signs reading "the power of the people is greater than the people in power."

Gabriel Ozuna, 61, said she and her family came from Baja California state, and were participating in the march not just to support democratic institution, but also to protest attacks on candidates by drug cartels, especially in local elections.

"We know our democracy is in danger. What we want to do is defend it and keep defending it," Ozuna said.

Among the opposition organizations marching were National Civic Front, Yes for Mexico, Citizen Power, Civil Society Mexico, UNE Mexico and United for Mexico.

"Democracy doesn't solve lack of water, it doesn't solve hunger, it doesn't solve a lot of things. But without democracy you can't solve anything," said Enrique de la Madrid Cordero, a prominent politician from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in a video posted to social media calling for people to join the protests.

The PRI held uninterrupted power in Mexico for more than 70 years.

Marches were organized in a hundred cities across the country, and in other cities in the United States and Spain.

Still, the president remains highly popular and opinion polls indicate his ally Sheinbaum appears set to coast easily into the presidency.

López Obrador repeatedly dismissed the protests, telling reporters Friday that his critics don't care about democracy and are organizing the march to return the corrupt to power.

Following the massive demonstration, the leader continued to rail on critics, and said there would be no electoral fraud in the election and that he had not intervened in democratic processes.

"It's their democracy ... the democracy of the corrupt. What we want is there to be democracy of the people. We don't want power without the people. They're the one's that establish an anti-democracy with electoral fraud," López Obrador.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press